From Jennifer on July 29th, 2009 in General Remodel
My husband, a contractor, is notorious for his roadtrip “shortcuts.” We know that whenever he says we’re taking a shortcut, we’re basically lost and the drive has just been extended by an hour. Luckily, when it comes to remodeling homes, his shortcuts actually save time, money, and personal anguish.
From my home to yours, here are 50 remodeling shortcuts to keep in mind the next time you tackle your to-do list:
1 – For more room in the house, instead of putting on an addition, try having a wall torn down or a closet knocked out. It’s a much cheaper, smaller project with similar results.
2 – Give bathrooms and kitchens a whole new look just by replacing sinks, faucets and cabinet drawer and door pulls.
Photo Credit: MoToMo
3 – To get dirt and dust out of tight spaces, like between tiles, floor boards, molding crevices, etc., use a stiff artist’s paint brush.
4 – Are your appliances super old but still functional? Install aesthetic wood panels to them to make a set/theme, or contrast the cabinetry rather than buying replacements.
5 – For added light in a room, you don’t have to install light fixtures. Try painting the room a lighter, brighter color.
6 – For broken tiles, you don’t always need to replace the entire surface. If matching tiles can’t be found, just break out a pattern and install contrasting tiles to make an artsy feature.
7 – If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Always map or graph out your remodeling plans on paper before you begin — sometimes even the best ideas just won’t work.
8 – Buy ahead. If you know you’ll be remodeling in the near future, take advantage of deals when you see them. When you’re ready to go, you’ll have less digs into your budget all at once.
9 – Use a drywall wet-sander when sanding joint compound to reduce dust in the house.
10 – Measure twice, cut once. This old adage holds true; double checking your work can save you loads of time and materials.
11 – Spray guns are way faster than painting by hand with a brush or roller. Just be sure to practice a little first to see how quickly and in what pattern the gun sprays.
12 – If you’re hanging drywall on the ceiling, even if a spare set of hands is available, rent a cradle — it’s easier, stronger and steadier and can lift a piece of drywall up to 11 feet in the air while you screw it in.
13 – When using power saws, always test the saw on a spare piece of wood to be sure the angles and widths are set properly before you cut your job materials.
Photo Credit: back_garage
14 – To keep wood and drywall from cracking or splitting when you drill or screw into it, put a piece of masking tape over the area and drill/screw into it, then carefully rip it off.
15 – Before installing cabinets, flooring, moldings, etc., check to see if your walls are plumb and square. If they’re not, you won’t have the same measurement at one height that you do at another and you’ll need to make arrangements for this.
16 – When you need to cut a whole in drywall for switch or outlet covers, draw on the outer edges of the plates with lipstick and press the piece of drywall up against it. On the back of the sheet, you’ll have a template of the plate and know exactly where to cut.
17 – Before renting anything, ask around first — you might already know someone who owns the tool or equipment and will let you borrow it (and can help you learn to use it properly, which is priceless). There are also tool lending libraries in some towns.
18 – For large/tall jobs, aluminum planking can give you surer footing than scaffolding.
19 – When using a ladder, wrap towels or cloth rags around the upper legs so that you won’t scratch or mar the walls.
20 – If you’re installing light bulbs, rub the bulb threads with a bar of soap to prevent them from corroding or sticking. This makes replacing the bulbs easier.
21 – Stay flexible. Sometimes the best feature of a project is achieved after correcting a mistake.
22 – Cut out the middle man whenever possible. Shop directly from suppliers/wholesalers.
23 – Always check the overstock and special order returns at local hardware stores for great deals.
24 – When running electrical wire, prevent kinks and tangles by keeping it on the spool. Just unravel as you go.
25 – Streamline your project by doing each task just once. If you’re cutting floor molding for three rooms, take all measurements and cut them at the same time.
26 – For shelves, organizers or woodcutting, check with local hardware stores before going it alone. You can often find a kit with everything you need pre-cut and ready for assembly. Or at least a station in the store that can cut pieces for you.
27 – Before doing anything that will create dust, cover the room in plastic. It’s a lot easier taking up plastic than wiping, dusting, sweeping and vacuuming later.
Photo Credit: Tall Chris
28 – Before painting or staining, always lay down tarps along the floor edges and tape off anything you don’t want painted, like switches and moldings.
29 – Check your supply list twice before beginning a project. Nothing soaks up more time than running to the store mid-project.
30 – When tackling large projects, call in any favors you have coming to you — many hands make light work.
31 – Never turn down offers for help. There’s always something someone can do, even if it’s just bringing you lunch so you don’t have to spend time making it.
32 – Remember all safety precautions: use gloves, eye goggles, face masks, etc. Many tragic construction-related accidents could’ve been avoided if people were just a little safer.
33 – Never use glue as a quick-fix when items should be nailed, stapled or screwed in. Someday in the future, you’ll probably take it apart, and ungluing often damages the item and whatever it was stuck to.
34 – Check deliveries carefully. Go over each item as it comes off the truck, open boxes and cartons, check lumber for warping, twisting, etc. and if it’s not right, don’t sign for it! Send it back with the driver. It’s much easier than trying to load it in your own vehicle later.
35 – Always check with your city or county to find out what types of permits your construction project requires. You do NOT want to get caught with your permits down.
36 – Before doing any outside digging, check with utility companies. They will come out and mark where underground lines are so that you don’t accidentally damage them.
37 – Check with local authorities if you live close to other homes to see what the noise laws are. You may be required to “keep it down” between certain hours of the day.
38 – Ventilation is extremely important and keeps air quality high while you’re creating dust and harsh chemical aromas. Keep doors and windows open, run a few fans, be safe!
39 – Lighting is key as well. You’re less likely to make mistakes when you can see clearly, so keep lights on and use flashlights or lanterns to help you see into tight spaces that need your attention.
40 – Learn to delegate. Any project is comprised of many large and small tasks. It will go much faster if you trust at least the small stuff to others around you.
41 – Set reasonable goals for yourself. Aim to meet your goals each day — this will keep you motivated and break the job into smaller, more manageable chunks.
42 – Schedule breaks. Everyone needs a break to unwind and refocus, so kick back and relax every few hours.
43 – Keep a notepad handy. When you run across items you need, questions you have, etc., write them down and then deal with your notes during a break.
44 – Keep a pencil on you at all times. It never fails — you’ll need one RIGHT NOW while your hands are full and you can’t walk away.
45 – Know industry standards. You can save a lot of time and money by knowing this information in advance. It will help you determine certain sizes, voltage requirements, necessary materials, etc.
46 – Invest in a tool belt! Keeping your pants up: handy. Always having small tools at your fingertips: priceless.
47 – Keep a supply of extension cords. It’s much easier to plug tools into an extension cord than to move materials and tools over to an outlet.
48 – Sharpen or replace saw blades regularly. Dull blades slow you down and can cause materials to splinter, chip or break.
49 – Always clean and lubricate your tools before storing them away. This ensures that they’ll be rust-free and in good working order next time you need to rely on them.
50 – Recognize that not every project or homeowner is of the DIY variety. Know your limits and hire a professional when necessary.